In the last couple of months, the internet world has been host to a different, very contemporary kind of theological debate.  First, Youtube sensation, Jefferson Bethke, posted this clip, in which he asserts that embracing Jesus without religion makes for the best kind of Christ-follower:

 I’m guessing that ten years ago this would have been the end of it – with this “statement” sufficing to spark a thousand snarky blog posts agreeing with it, adding their own list of pet peeves against the church and offering their own complaints against organized institutional religion.

But today, even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives are catching up to the digital age. And so, none other than Father Pontifex, a Catholic priest, with the help of a group called, ‘spiritjuices,” posted this response:

Now, I’m an evangelical Protestant, and I’m told that the first video “really resonates with a lot of young people today” – and I understand that.  But, in the final analysis and on balance, I’d say the priest makes the better, more biblical case overall.

What do you think?

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also


-1 # Kelly 2012-02-14 09:44
I must admit, the first video does indeed resound with me. The word religion has such a bad connotation associated with it. To many, religion equals a list of "Thou Shalt Nots"

When the Priest states: “And If I have the Jersey and I'm playing for the Bulls There's going to be some boundaries, regulations and some rules” the hair stands on the back of my neck. If Religion equals rules, then I don’t want anything to do with it.

Our rules put God in a box. Our rules limit the depth of what God can do in our lives, because we are so focused on living up to the expectations of the rules.

My generation does not want the religion of our parents. We don’t want to be able to follow the rules and become a member of a church and never know Jesus. We want to experience God exponentially and have our lives changed daily.

Todd, thanks for the very thought provoking blog posting.
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0 # Steve W 2012-02-16 15:05
I'm with you on this one, Todd. While I certainly appreciate Bethke's sentiments, I think he ends up sacrificing too much.

From the earliest days of the church it is clear there were rules and boundaries, practices and disciplines that gave form to the people of God. These structures helped solve theological conflict (Acts 15) care for the powerless (Acts 6) and establish and maintain the worship of the people (creeds and prayers like in 1 Cor. 15).

The point is not that these structures are somehow inspired in the way that Torah was for ancient Israel, but rather that in a fallen world filled with fallible people, it takes boundaries to ensure that we are holding true to that which has been passed down to us.

Certainly religion can end up obscuring Jesus if manipulated in unbiblical ways (which does happen), but religionless individualism, even among grace filled Christians, often doesn't do much better in following him either.
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0 # R. Todd Mangum 2012-02-16 15:51
@Kelly: Of course, anyone who's ever been part of a pick-up basketball game in which no fouls were barred understands that the priest has at least a point.

Bethke has clearly tapped into a theme that resonates with a lot of young people -- legalistic "rules obsession" (in place of viable relationship with God stemming from the heart) is certainly a problem. But does he overstate his point when he seems to bash all institutionalism -- especially when Jesus describes His mission as one of "building His church" . . . ?

Good discussion!
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0 # R. Todd Mangum 2012-02-16 15:52
@Steve W -- well said. Thanks for the comments.
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